Ghislaine Maxwell arrest throws spotlight back on Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew at the wheel of a Range Rover in Windsor earlier this year. Photograph: Invicta Kent Media/Rex/Shutterstock


The arrest by the FBI of the British woman Ghislaine Maxwell on multiple charges related to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein throws an uncomfortable spotlight once more on the Duke of York.

It comes less than one month after a bad-tempered war-of-words between Prince Andrew’s lawyers and US prosecutors over the royal’s cooperation – or alleged lack of it – over their investigation into the late billionaire.

With Maxwell now in the headlines, there seems little respite in sight from the unrelenting pressure the prince has found himself under over his friendship with the pair.

He has known Maxwell, the daughter of the late, disgraced London newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, by his own account since she was at Oxford University. They were, he has said, “close friends”. It was Maxwell who introduced him to Epstein in 1999.

Though Andrew eventually severed his contacts with Epstein, who was by then a convicted sex offender, he has maintained his friendship with Maxwell.

He last saw her in spring or summer last year “when she was here doing some rally”, he told Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis in his car-crash interview in November, the fallout from which led to his stepping down from public life.

He was asked directly by Maitlis if Maxwell had “questions to answer about her role” over Epstein.

He replied: “ If there are questions that Ghislaine has to answer, that’s her problem, I’m afraid. I’m not in a position to be able to comment one way or the other.”

Reportedly introduced to her by his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, Andrew seems to have eagerly embraced the social contacts enabled by Maxwell, who was a pivotal fixture on the New York party circuit.

The prince was a guest at dinner parties organised by Maxwell, as Epstein’s aide-de-camp, at the financier’s Upper East Side mansion in New York.

Andrew and Maxwell were photographed at events, including the “pimps and prostitutes” theme party thrown in 2000 by the model Heidi Klum in Manhattan, with Maxwell attired in gold lame and wearing a blonde wig.

According to an Evening Standard report, in 2001 Andrew and Maxwell went on a number of trips together, including to Florida and Thailand, with claims Epstein joined them on occasion.

Andrew invited the pair to the palaces and mansions at his family’s disposal. He corrected Maitlis when she suggested he had hosted a 40th birthday party for Maxwell. It was, he said, “a straightforward shooting weekend”, held at Sandringham, at which Epstein was her “plus one”.

Maxwell and Epstein were guests at the 18th birthday party of his daughter Princess Beatrice at Windsor Castle. They stayed at Balmoral. They popped up on the star-studded guest list for the Dance of the Decades in 2000, at which more than 600 guests descended on Windsor Castle to mark four royal birthdays, including Andrew’s 40th.

It was at Maxwell’s London Belgravia townhouse that the duke was photographed with his arm around the waist of his now accuser, Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts). Allegedly taken in 2001, Andrew has said he has no memory of it, or of ever meeting Giuffre. She claims she was forced to have sex with him when she was 17 years old. Her claims have been categorically denied by the prince who said they did not have sex.

Last month, Andrew’s lawyers issued a statement accusing the US investigators into Epstein of misleading the public and breaching their own confidentiality in their handling of the inquiry.

In a two-page statement, his lawyers alleged that the US Department of Justice had rejected three offers of help volunteered by Andrew this year. They also noted that the DoJ had “advised us that the duke is not and has never been a ‘target’ of their criminal investigations into Epstein” and that they had instead sought his “confidential, voluntary cooperation”.

Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, responded by publicly accusing Andrew of trying to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate” and said that a request to schedule an interview had been “repeatedly declined”.

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